Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Hit Pause

When schools’ summer vacation rolls around, in theory, it’s supposed to be a relaxing and re-energizing time. One of my challenges is that my first action every morning is to fire up the computer and check online to see what’s going on. Which can often lead to less relaxation, to say the least.

A check of the weather: boy, lots of tornado activity in the Midwest, early this summer.

A check of sports: well, if it’s not the local team’s bullpen imploding, it’s some athlete trying to gain an advantage over his or her mates by using performance-enhancing drugs … or abusing some other person …

A check of the news: Lordy mama, where to begin?

Even when I check onto the local social media engine, I dimly worry about data mining and privacy issues. (The curse of being a former journalism major, perhaps.)

Not relaxed!! And, far too often this summer, not at all optimistic about the state of the world.

That’s the thing about being in good company (more often the virtual online version of good company, rather than the in-person, face-to-face version, but it still counts): when you least expect it, they post something that shifts your focus (whether it’s about you or something else) and re-sets your priorities.

This morning, I staggered to the computer and checked to see what had happened overnight … and had my priorities gently re-set.

A friend of mine whom I have seen just once in the last decade had tagged me in a post on her MyFace … Spacebook … whatever … page. She noted that one of her friends was utilizing her online profile page to post kind sentiments about people in her life. My friend decided to “hop on that bandwagon” – to go and do likewise. And paid me some rather large compliments – the kind that cause one to sit and stare at the screen, head tilted to one side, probably sporting a rather dopey grin, and mumbling words like, “aww.”

A cool idea, indeed. Although occasionally it can seem absolutely essential to make a point using Snark, it’s pretty rare that anyone expresses themselves without Snark anymore. Sadly, it’s now that much more affecting when one reads the kind of (arguably way-over-the-top) things that she wrote about what kind of friends we are, in the simple and kindly way she did. That’s probably because it stands in such stark contrast to the average, baseline kinds of expression that now flood our world’s communication, whether in our own interpersonal dealings or “over the airwaves”.

(He said, having just unloaded a pile of Snark onto his readers in his most recent blog post. Guilty as charged, your honor.)

It put me in mind of a Starred Thought® from my college band director: “Don’t wait to tell people how much they mean to you. You never know.” How true that has turned out to be.

So: let the bandwagon-hopping begin.


It’s a long and tortuous, “six degrees of separation” story … but I know that friend of mine who wrote this morning’s jaw-dropper of post (anonymous in this format but she’ll know who she is) because of that college band director.

Fifteen years ago was my first summer as a Drum Major Academy instructor, and without a doubt I felt like The Rookie. There were plenty of people on staff who had been doing this for a long time, or at least longer than I had. Yes, I was familiar with all the vocal commands and the field conducting concepts and the leadership philosophies – well, they all belonged to the eponymous founder of the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, my college band director, so obviously!. But I was definitely “learning the ropes”. Everyone was very helpful, but one staff member in particular with a shock of red hair was instantly friendly and helpful and welcoming. I think it stood out to me because I had met most of the other staff members before, but she and I had known each other approximately two minutes before she actively made sure I had a clue about what was going on. (Also, we redheads gotta stick together, after all.)

It turned out that she was a graduate of the University of Delaware band, which was directed by the nice lady who was one of my fellow UMass drum majors, never mind how long ago … and if I hadn’t been her friend and colleague, I wouldn’t have gotten to write tunes for the Delaware band, never mind probably not getting hooked into the DMA thing … therefore I would never have met my new also-redheaded friend.

(I know, at this point I should drop the anonymity and just name names. Sorry, dear reader, I’m making you work too hard.)

The last time we got to teach a DMA clinic together was at least ten years ago, probably eleven. Via eMail and the social media circus, we’ve happily kept in touch ever since – when she became a high school band director, she asked me to write a few marching show tunes for her, and what a kick to be able to do that! It’s always more fun to write for friends.

But there was one moment that confirmed what I already knew: that she was one of those stand-up people who walks as good as she talks.

A month after that Starred-Thought®-generating college band director passed away unexpectedly, it was Homecoming Day at UMass, and the throng of nearly a thousand band alumni who had gathered on campus were making their way into the basketball arena, which was about to host a celebration of Mr. Parks’ life, complete with performances by the band and speeches from dignitaries and mass singing and all that good stuff. I turned a corner and had one of those Out-Of-Context Theatre moments, when you see people you know, but not where you expected to see them.

On the campus of the University of Massachusetts, in the fall of 2010, I ran smack into three graduates of the University of Delaware band from the mid-1990s. And I knew them all. Two of them had been drum majors and the other one had been a senior during the first year that I got to write for the UD band. That one – and you probably saw this one coming down Broadway with its doors open – was of course my redheaded DMA staff friend.

They had driven together, from the mid-Atlantic, five or six hours north to western Massachusetts, for that one single event in the arena. They had done so because they were students of one of Mr. Parks’ students – and they had other friends who were also Mr. Parks’ students – so here they were, many miles and doubtless many gallons! later … because that’s what friends do.


I like this bandwagon-hopping, “write something that makes sure your friends know how you feel about them” idea. ‘Twould be great if the concept went viral. Might help the world out, at least a little. At the very least, it could certainly help us hit the “pause” button on a world that’s too often full of the lunatic and the unkind.

But even if not, my little corner of the world was made brighter this morning. Thanks, Jess. Right back at’cha.


July 16, 2013 - Posted by | band, DMA, Facebook, friends, GNP, marching band, social media, Starred Thoughts, UDMB, UMMB, writing | , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: